No one was flat-out shocked when Erik Seidel won the €100,000 Super High Roller event at the EPT Grand Final this year. How could they be? Seidel has been around for decades, amassing tournament earnings of more than $25 million and winning eight World Series of Poker bracelets.
But in a way, that resume is precisely why they might have been surprised that Seidel had triumphed. Increasingly since the dawn of the “modern” game — i.e., post the internet boom — poker champions have been getting younger and younger. Seidel’s victory, at the age of 55, was predictably billed as the old-guard striking back.
Further to this, however, it is amusing to note how butterfly-brief is the life of a bone fide “young gun”. Maturity comes very, very quickly on the European Poker Tour and, pretty much, you’re no longer a newbie after your first season. By your third or fourth, you’re a veteran.
A quick glance at table 1 on Day 2 of the €50,000 Super High Roller event here in Barcelona offers a very clear indication of this point. It’s as though the random seat draw had actually attempted just to lump together anyone who has recently been described as either a wunderkind, prodigy or enfant terrible (or nueva estrella, since we’re in Spain) and leave them to scrap it out for the title.
In seat eight, we find Max Altergott. When the hitherto unknown German player went all the way to the winner’s enclosure in the final event of EPT Season 9 — which just happened to be the €100,000 Super High Roller tournament — we gleefully announced the arrival of a new sensation. Altergott was 22 years old, and his first ever live tournament cash was worth €1,746,400 ($2.3 million approx.)
Altergott was no flash in the pan. He has amassed another $3 million in live tournament earnings since then, approximately $1 million for each year he has aged. His bank manager is surely happy, but in the poker world, he is now an elder statesman — at a ridiculous 24 years old.
That’s mainly because if he looks across the table, he’ll see Fedor Holz, aka CrownUpGuy. Holz turned 22 last month, and one would like to think he invested some of his $1.7 million live tournament winnings, or a chunk of his unmeasured (but enormous) online winnings, on some kind of party.
Holz was the most irrepressible sight at the beginning of last season on the EPT, cashing five times in Barcelona (including one victory), then making the final table of both the High Roller and Super High Roller events in Monaco. In between that, he squeezed in victory in the WCOOP main event.
I’ll say it again because it’s still extraordinary: Fedor Holz is 22.
And yet. And yet. A couple of seats to Holz’s left, CrownUpGuy will see Adrian Mateos, who is the reigning EPT Grand Final champion. Mateos also announced himself on the poker scene in pretty spectacular fashion, winning the Estrellas main event in Madrid when he was 18 and then picking up his first seven-figure score at the World Series Europe at the tender age of 19.
He was all of 20 when he won in Monaco in May, becoming the first Spanish player to win an EPT Main Event. If Holz raised Altergott in the age stakes (or, I suppose, under-raised him), Mateos does the same to Holz. He is 341 days younger.
Now, hilariously, it doesn’t even stop there. If all of those old fellows glance to seat one on their table, they will see a man named Dzmitry Urbanovich, who is the reigning EPT Player of the Year.
Mrs Urbanovich brought the young Dzmitry into the world on May 18, 1995, at which point Mateos had already been kicking and screaming for 321 days. Urbanovich, whose live tournament winnings presently sit at $2.7 million, is a full four years, three months and 28 days younger than Altergott. So much for the German’s purported youth.
The law across Europe — which, in almost all jurisdictions, allows gambling only from 18 years old — means that this kind of thing cannot go on forever. At some point, we’re going to get an 18-year-old who wins five EPT main events in their debut season and they will go down as the greatest and youngest of all time.
But until that happens, we will enter each and every new season on the EPT confident that an as-yet unknown youngster is about to make a name for his or herself. And when he or she arrives, there will be a seat on table 1 — unless Mr Seidel gets there first.
Start your journey to EPT glory by downloading the PokerStars client and having a crack. Follow this EPT event via the EPT app. There you will get all the latest news, chip counts and payouts. You can download it on Android or IOS. All the EPT Barcelona bumf is on the main EPT Barcelona page, while blow-by-blow Super High Roller coverage is on the Super High Roller page.